ExxonMobil's "External Citizenship Advisory Panel" was created in 2009 and is made up of five human rights, business, environmental, and government experts. The independent panel critiques the oil company's impact on civil society, human rights, democratic governance, and the environment. Labowitz, the co-director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, believes Exxon's approach is anti-democratic and threatens to have a chilling effect on environmental activism. Exxon has not yet removed Labowitz from the panel's website."[Exxon] defines conspiracy as routine advocacy, like holding meetings with government officials," Labowitz told me in a phone call. "That crosses a line. This is what you see in countries where the government tries to suppress human rights."Exxon filed this dubious lawsuit while Rex Tillerson, the newly-appointed Secretary of State, was still the company's CEO, raising questions about Tillerson's commitment to promoting human rights and civil society abroad. Critics question whether Tillerson can be trusted to advocate for protecting the health of non-governmental organizations abroad while his former company continues to harass them and tries to diminish their role at home.Labowitz says she advocated internally for dropping the lawsuit before becoming convinced by the recent round of subpoenas that Exxon was "doubling down," and she saw no other alternative but to resign from the unpaid advisory position.
"This is what you see in countries where the government tries to suppress human rights"
"I'm concerned that somebody who, in his role at ExxonMobil took this kind of aggressive approach to civil society groups is now responsible for upholding human rights"